8-9-14 Hodgepodge

Saturday, August 09, 2014

This Shouldn't Have Been Necessary

In what is mistaken for good news these days, Houston's city council voted by a wide margin to pass an ordinance allowing ride-sharing services, such as Uber and Lyft, to operate legally in their fair city. No one seems to bat an eye at the fact that, even in one of the most capitalistic cities in the country, agreements between consenting adults are treated like a privilege granted by the state, rather than a right to be protected by it. The default condition in a free society is that a legitimate concern needn't get permission to do business.

Oh, and there are already strings attached:

Council members did pass several amendments that were designed to make the competition more level. Currently, Uber and Lyft do not have a metered fare like a cab, and can change how much they charge based on demand. City leaders voted to allow that for cabs as well. But, it will only apply to cabs hailed through an app, not to cabs people catch on the street or at a hotel. Those cabs will still need to adhere to meter rates.
So cabs can't adjust their rates and, presumably, a ride-share operator who wanted to use a meter would be on the wrong side of the law if he did. Such is the business climate in one of America's freer cities.

Weekend Reading

"By examining the lives of people who experience tragic loss, you can find that the most resilient among them seized the new opportunities that arose." -- Michael Hurd, in "Loss Hurts, But It Can Also be Opportunity" at The Delaware Wave

"People who feel that they have too little control over their lives certainly need to address the issue -- but not on the roads of resort towns." -- Michael Hurd, in "Vacation Mindset Syndrome" at The Delaware Coast Press

My Two Cents

The second teaser quote above would make me more inclined to laugh at impulsive drivers -- if only they weren't so dangerous.

If you like steak, ...

... you'll love Argentina, says Maciej Ceglowski, who also offers the following amusing speculation after travelling there:
Surely [Juan Díaz de] Solís was wearing one of those crucifixes that shows Jesus actually hanging from the cross. It must have been a simple mistake on the part of the natives, who saw him as a friendly gift from the visitors on the boat, complete with a serving suggestion suspended around his neck. In any case, you will now see crucified lambs and calves in the front window of many a larger parrilla, roasting for hours in front of unfazed diners.
Ceglowski, the proprietor of my favorite bookmarking site, is also quite an entertaining writer. If you have some time to kill, stop by his blog, Idle Words, and look around, particularly at his travel entries.



Grant said...


I liked Dr. Hurd's article about the "vacation mindset." Thanks for linking to it. It reminds me of a phenomenon I used to experience at a job I once had. The company was a private contractor for the Post Office, and we processed large amounts of mail. It was simply stunning the percentage of hand-written addresses that had problems. Very bad - often illegible - penmanship, missing or incorrect street numbers or zip codes, missing or misspelled street names or cities, etc. The percentage of addresses which had errors like these was, in my experience, multiple times higher than the percentage of other types of hand-written communications I had encountered in my life. I can't say that with certainty, of course, but it was definitely something that struck me in my time there.

Our company offered the service of "address verification" (ie: we had software which could often infer, from even incomplete information, the 11-digit code which every US address has - or at least flag a problematic letter for inspection by a human being who could likely guess what was intended - and ultimately get a bar code printed on it which would ensure it reached it's intended destination). Additionally, the Post Office has a famous policy of being willing to accept just about any "letter" or parcel - no matter how bizarrely packaged - so long as it has an address and adequate postage.

My theory was that because the clients whose mail we processed knew these two facts, they actually failed on purpose to carefully address their letters. It wasn't just that they were busy. I think that they actually delighted in the fact that they didn't have to care. It's as if they regarded the fact that communication has certain objective requirements (clarity, accuracy, etc) as some sort of metaphysical injustice, and so when they had the (relatively rare) opportunity to flout those requirements without any direct consequences they did so - as a way to "get back at reality" or to "live according to the way reality really is."


Gus Van Horn said...

It's hard to speculate on such a phenomenon without more data, but it could be anything from contempt for the idea of zip codes to a willingness to let computers do the thinking for them.

Grant said...

But apparently it's easy to speculate on the reasons for bad driving in resort towns during the vacation season? Without more information, maybe people have more crashes and run more red lights because they're not familiar with the area. It could be anything from that to the the "vacation mindset." I'm just speculating, but maybe you also vacation in Rehoboth Beach, and therefore have "more information"?

Gus Van Horn said...

Perhaps I should have simply stated that I don't have enough information about your speculations which, although interesting, I can't categorically claim to agree with or not. I did not mean to impugn the source.

As to my comfort with Dr, Hurd's opinions, let's compare how I heard about each: Hurd is an experienced psychologist; You are a layman, to the best of my knowledge. Hurd has written a coulumn (and had it edited, and been asked to re-run it several times by fellow residents of Reheboth Beach); You made an off-the-cuff comment based on data you admit might be somewhat open to question. I have much more experience as a driver than as a mail-sorter, and so can access introspection when considering what Hurd has to say much more than for what you have to say.

I could go on about the interesting issue you indirectly raise -- how to evaluate data and speculation from others -- but I think I have said enough. (And possibly too much or too awkwardly. I am not always the smoothest extemporaneous communicator.)

I enjoy your comments and have a policy of answering comments when I can. I am sorry to have come off as dismissive.


Grant said...


Dr. Hurd's credentials are irrelevant here - as this is first and foremost a philosophical (not a psychological) issue. Anyone with a firm grasp of the difference between "the metaphysical vs. the man made", as well an awareness of the fact that most people in the society don't have such a grasp, could have postulated the theory that he and I did to begin to explain either phenomena. Being an experienced psychologist, Dr. Hurd is better equipped than I am to explain how - exactly - that philosophical error manifests itself, and therefore to determine if a given phenomenon is indeed a manifestation of it, but (in leiu of an exhaustive study) even he stipulated that he was not certain that his "thoughts" were the correct explanation for the one he encountered. Yes, his theory is more likely than mine to be correct, but it is still by no means certain. Our theories, therefore, in effect, were identical - so I was just confused (and put off) by your differing reactions to them.

I'm sorry that you got the impression that I was asking you to overlook your greater degree of personal experience with driving (as opposed to sorting mail), and to nevertheless accept my "thoughts" as an explanation for why people address letters incorrectly. Given that, your reaction to my comment was entirely justified, but that wasn't at all the purpose of my initial comment. I was simply doing what Dr. Hurd did in his article: draw attention to the role a specific and widespread philosophical error may or may not play in a common, every day sort of occurrence (so I expected an identical reaction).

Nevertheless, I believe you, of course, when you say that you are frequently pressed for time when you reply to comments, and that you aren't always the smoothest extemporaneous communicator (who is?), so definitely: no hard feelings at all. I enjoy your blog.


Gus Van Horn said...


Apologies for the late moderation of your comment and reply. (I have been both swamped and hit by child care failures (a sick kid, followed by a sick sitter) lately.

Thanks for your thoughtful reply.